Thursday, 5 December 2013

If I could turn back time

By James Kyle

Geoff reluctantly turned off the black and white TV. But then, before they went out, he had told his parents that he would definitely finish his homework if he could watch TV first. And as usual his father had promised him a sixpence if he got top marks in class. But even that motivation couldn’t compete with his wish that the Doctor Who episode that just finished could have went on for hours more. At least they repeated the first week’s episode or he would have missed it all together. Unless he could have built his own time machine of course! That would be so amazing. His homework was delayed that little bit more as he imagined opening the door of his own personal TARDIS to a stone age world full of cavemen and dinosaurs. He could even find himself a pet dinosaur. That would be so awesome - what would he call him?

He jumped with a start as his daydream was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a loud thud coming from the back yard, and he was instantly brought back to the present. It sounded like somebody had fallen. Maybe it was the one of the gang from the council estate. They were always jumping from the neighbourhood yard walls to the top of the midden sheds for a dare. They had taunted him on more than one occasion to do the same. He knew they thought he was chicken. But still, he reassured himself, at least he was a chicken who was alive with no broken bones. Maybe somebody else was not so lucky this time. Deciding he better check, just in case, Geoff stepped outside into the yard - quietly, in case the whole gang was out there. But there was no gang of kids in the yard this evening. Instead there was only a single figure illuminated by the light form the house windows, standing halfway across the wasteland that was their communal back yard, and he was dressed in a spacesuit!

Geoff stood there astonished. Was this a neighbour in a fancy dress costume? No wait, if so, what was he doing pulling in a parachute? Someone actually, really from space? He tried to think if he knew any Russian. But even if he could drag a hello in this foreign tongue from some abyss, his mind was frozen in time with the unbelievable sight in front of him. And then the figure turned and unhurriedly removed his helmet.

“Hello Geoff,” the visitor from space said.

The face kind of looked familiar, a bit like … a bit like his dad??? “Hello … how do you know my name … who are you?”

“Well, my name is Geoff and I have come to visit you …”

“from the future.”

The spaceman laughed. “Yes, that was quick, we are blessed with intelligence aren’t we.”

“But why ...”

“Why have I come back in time?”

“Yes, that too, but why a spacesuit?”

“And not a TARDIS? Like Doctor Who? Well the name gives you a clue.”

“The name?”

“TARDIS – Time and relative dimension in space. To get back to here, I have had to travel through time and space. As I said, we are smart, and I know you can follow this. If I was in a particular place on earth and I simply travelled through time then when I arrived at the earlier date …”

“the earth would not be there, because it travels around the sun.”

“Exactly. And not only that. Our sun revolves around the centre of the galaxy at 828,000 km per hour and our galaxy itself is moving at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour relative to other galaxies. So to jump back in time involves immensely complex calculations to also target the correct spatial coordinates. Even then it can only be an approximation. So the safest way of doing this is to aim to materialize somewhere inside the moon’s orbit – that is where the spacesuit comes in handy - and do a series of mini jumps from there … ”

“into the sky, and parachute from there to the ground.”

“yes, much safer to aim for a good distance above the ground as opposed to ending up under it. And now you know how, shall we talk about why?”

Geoff junior nodded.

“Good, because I have not much time here. After our little chat you are going to get very interested in quantum mechanics. So this might make more sense to you later, but essentially I am here and, at the same time, am also still bodily present in the future. Both of these states of me are in a quantum entanglement. This separation will only hold for a little while longer before I dematerialise from this space-time frame.”

“Just like Doctor Who.”

“Yes, but not quite so noisily, and luckily you will remember everything I say, unlike in the 50 year anniversary episode of Doctor Who I was just watching where they use an appallingly poor plot device to ensure the doctors don’t remember anything …”

“50 years of Doctor Who – wow. Great!”

 “Yes, you have all that to look forward to,” Geoff smiled, then looked at a timepiece strapped to the left wrist of his spacesuit, “but time is running out, and we need to get back to why I am here. Having explained to you the effort it required for me to be able to talk to you today …”

“Are you going to tell me how to make lots of money by investing in stuff?”

“Well I could do, but no need. We do fine financially. I am here to talk about something much more important.”

“Important enough to jump back through time.”

“Exactly. That important. When I was a lot older than you are now, I heard of something called the rocking chair test. To take this test, you imagine yourself as retired, sitting on your porch, thinking about your life – what you did you wish you hadn’t and what you didn’t do you wish you had. You then have the opportunity to decide to make the right choices at that point in your life and not regret poor choices for the rest of your life. Are you following me so far?”


“Now, I recall how we felt when I was your age. How you are now. We are smart, but we are also very isolated. Our parents are not good socially and all that religious sexual guilt is overwhelming. I remember the pain, I remember how enticing the fantasy of books and TV was – a way of escaping from a lonely life, but an escape that helped maintain that isolation. So I am here to make sure you make the right choice now, for us, before it is too late. That is the gift I bring you. Something much more valuable than ways to improve your bank balance”

“But if I make a different choice does that not change what happens to you?”

“It already has.”

“So why come back?”

“Because your choices would not have changed us unless I made the choice to come back. Fiction makes time travel dilemmas far too complicated. Think of time and space, all the past and all the future as a vast interconnected web that is already laid out right now - unchangeable. But our choices are part of the creation of that intertangled web, and one part of that, is me coming back to talk to you today.”

“To save me from a life of loneliness …”

“Yes, and have a life full of loving relationships instead. That is why it was so important for me to come back to visit you – to share with you one simple rule that will transform your life.”


“Whatever you want in life, give away,” the older Geoff paused, “Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

“You need more love and friendship in your life.”

“And so, if I want love in my life, give my love to others …”

“See, we are smart.”

Geoff gathered up the parachute canopy into his arms.

“And that will change my life?”

“It already has.”

There was no sound. One minute there were two figures in the backyard, one in a spacesuit. The next minute there was only one. The young boy stood motionless for a while longer. The bells on the clock tower in the old town began to sound. The youth club will just be opening he realised. The homework could wait until tomorrow.

Image courtesy of twobee /

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